Our favorite talking points of election season:
- “Binders of women”
A candidate could refer, somewhat obviously, to binders of women’s résumés. But if he used the shorthand “binders of women”, that means he’s a misogynist who wants to take the distaff half of the species back to the Stone Age, including his long-suffering wife. (Hmm…they also have 5 kids, who all happen to be male. The chances of that happening are 32 to 1. Can we state unequivocally that there wasn’t some sex-selective infanticide along the way?)
- “Women make x¢ for every dollar men make”, x being a number somewhere around 68 to 77.
This one just refuses to die. The consensus interpretation of it seems to be that for your average man who makes $50,000 in his generic job, the average woman beside him makes $36,000 or so. Since some women make as much as their male counterparts, for every one who does there must be another woman who makes even less compared to men.
This is 99% false, and even if it were 0% false, so what? Let’s examine it a little more closely:
Yes, if you add up the total amount of money earned by women in the workplace, divide that by the number of working women, multiply that by the total money earned by men, and divide that by the number of working men, you’ll get something like .72.
But that includes every job in existence, and doesn’t correct for the indisputable fact that women gravitate toward flexible jobs. Ones that allow for plenty of time away from the office, and thus that permit some form of turnover. To cite an example, the combatant commander of CENTCOM can’t take time off to drop his kids off at the pediatrician’s office or petition his boss (that’d be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) for additional maternity leave. Meanwhile, the daycare center supervisor at the Franklin County Public Library can afford to be a little more accommodating.
Of course, “women gravitate toward flexible jobs” is a general statement. More women do so than men, but most gainfully employed people of either sex aren’t as interested in flexibility as they are in earning money.
Lines of work in which women make several dollars for each dollar men make:
- Tending bar, and sorry if you happen to be a bartender and think we’ve drawn some equivalence between your job and the others on this brief list.
Gals, if you want to make more money, here’s a handy 2-part strategy that never fails:
- Pick a career that increases the likelihood that you’ll get paid more. Sure, you’d make a great receptionist. But is that really what you want to do for a living? Maybe it is, in which case, great. But think about what draws people to that job. Heck, ask a receptionist if you want to. They’re easy enough to find. Most of the women who answer phones for a living do so because the demands are small, and it’s easy to find someone to cover for them.
- Negotiate better. Look. No one seriously disputes that there are certain activities in which one sex has consistently shown more proficiency than the other. Here are just a few:
- Lifting 50-pound sacks of cement
- Being “intuitive”, whatever the hell that means
- Calculating cube roots and partial derivatives
- Reading palms and consulting the stars
- Isolating chemical elements (Yes, Marie Curie existed and was awesome. So were Albert Ghiorso, Glenn Seaborg, Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence, Dmitri Mendelev, Henry Cavendish, Ernest Rutherford, Otto Hahn, Antoine Lavoisier, Joseph Priestley, Linus Pauling and about 1000 more. You want us to keep going?)
- Interior design
- Civil engineering
- Human resources
- Playing football at a professional level
- Elementary education
Don’t pretend that men and women, cumulatively speaking, are equally adept at each of the activities listed above. But for the vast majority of jobs, it doesn’t matter whether the person performing them is male or female. Attorney. Veterinarian. United States Senator. Journalist, and if that’s what you do for a living God help you regardless of what sex you are. And yes, tire plant supervisor.
If you’re a woman, and you’re making less than your male coworkers in any of the jobs we just mentioned, why? Did you insist when you were hired that you make as much as the men do? If not, why not? And what if the men don’t each make the same amount anyway?
Alf is a shift supervisor who makes $45,000. Barry is a shift supervisor at the same plant, with responsibilities identical to Alf’s. In Barry’s interview, he insisted on $50,000 and not one penny less. The hiring manager was authorized to pay Barry as much as $54,000. There were no other qualified candidates at the time, and the plant needed to fill the position ASAP. So Barry got his $50,000.
A third shift supervisor position opens up. Cindy applies for it, and gets hired. How much should they pay her?
- More than Alf? That’s hardly “pay equity” in the traditional sense.
- As much as Alf? Not if Cindy a) ever glances at Barry’s paycheck and b) knows how to find a lawyer.
- Less than Alf? No, that’s the very inequality we’re trying to avoid.
Here’s how much they should pay Cindy: whatever she can get.
Why should an employer pay you more than you ask for? More to the point, why shouldn’t you ask for as much as you can get?
The unfortunate truth is that women are almost as bad at negotiating as they are at throwing baseballs. (You ladies know you can move your elbow back, right? Try it sometime.) Heck, one of the brightest and most financially savvy women we know admits that she sucks at negotiating.
It isn’t Congress’s job to do what you can’t, or refuse to. Stand up for yourself, and demand more. Examine your alternatives – you can’t negotiate without leverage. Learn to say no. Reject the first offer. Find competitors and play them off against each other. Unlearn everything you’ve ever been taught about playing nice, being agreeable, not hurting the other person’s pride, going along to get along, etc. Money doesn’t care what sex you are. If Cindy’s years of feminine programming prohibit her from asking for as much as Barry does, that’s not the hiring manager’s problem.
This is so obvious it hardly counts as an observation, but every financial negotiation is inherently adversarial. The employer (client, etc.) wants to pay as little as possible. The employee (or vendor) wants to get paid as much as possible. The company in the above example is profiting off Barry, and profiting even more off Alf. It’s up to Cindy to decide how much she wants the company to profit off her.
It’s not that people of different sexes receive differing pay. It’s that everyone receives differing pay, depending on what they can negotiate. And that’s how it should be, unless you’ve ceded your bargaining rights to a union.
This has nothing to do with morality, or fairness. What Would Jesus Do? He’d tell you that if you agreed to work for a certain wage, even if other people are getting more than you and rubbing your face in it, suck it up until your contract expires. Or find something else.